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Egyptian Court Bans Aljazeera Affiliate, Pro-Islamist Channels

  • Edward Yeranian

A screenshot of Aljazeera channel showing anti-government protests in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria on Aug. 30, 2013. The protests were not covered by Egyptian TV channels.

A screenshot of Aljazeera channel showing anti-government protests in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria on Aug. 30, 2013. The protests were not covered by Egyptian TV channels.

An Egyptian court has ordered four television channels to halt their broadcasts, including Aljazeera's local affiliate and a network belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Aljazeera TV Direct, which focuses on Egyptian local politics, plays an appeal for freedom of the press, after announcing that an Egyptian court was restricting some of its activities.

The administrative court ruling Tuesday includes the Ahrar 25 network operated by the Brotherhood, as well as the pro-Islamist Al-Quds and Al-Yarmuk channels.

Aljazeera reported the court had placed restrictions on it and said Aljazeera was “broadcasting without a license.” The station says it was granted a license in April.

Aljazeera Direct played a jingle Tuesday on its airwaves, amid an abbreviated news schedule, calling for the “victory of Islam and the defeat of secularism.”

Three Islamist-oriented satellite channels banned by the court Tuesday have been off the air since former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted on July 3.

Officials of Egypt's military-installed interim government have complained Aljazeera and several other media organizations have been broadcasting “biased” information."

Al Jazeera denies the charge, though critics say it has shown a trend toward having a higher proportion of Muslim Brotherhood guests on its shows.

Veteran Egyptian editor and publisher Hisham Kassem said that despite Aljazeera's “clear support for one (Egyptian) party against the other,” he does not think there was sufficient reason to stop it from broadcasting.

While he generally opposes restrictions on the press, he believes that there are situations, as in Sri Lanka, Kosovo and Rwanda, where in the past curbs have been warranted due to media inciting violence.

“I do accept that incitement has to be punishable by jail, and in that I bring up the case of Rwanda or Kosovo or Sri Lanka, where there was clear incitement," Kassem said. "If you call somebody a dog, then that can be libel and punishable by a fine. But if you say, 'go out there,' and say, 'kill the men and rape the women', then that is incitement and you should be imprisoned for it.”

But Kassem says Aljazeera has “not committed incitement.”

Still, the Egyptian public and many government officials continue to call for increased restrictions against some media organizations, which are finding it increasingly dangerous to report from the streets.
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